Pentoxifylline in the treatment of radiation-induced fibrosis

Paul Okunieff, Elizabeth Augustine, Jeanne E. Hicks, Terri L. Cornelison, Rosemary M. Altemus, Boris G. Naydich, Ivan Ding, Amy K. Huser, Edward H. Abraham, Judith J. Smith, Norman Coleman, Lynn H. Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Fibrotic sequelae remain the most important dose-limiting toxicity of radiation therapy to soft tissue. Functionally, this is reflected in loss of range of motion and muscle strength and the development of limb edema and pain. Tumor necrosis factor alpha and fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), which are abnormally elevated in irradiated tissues, may mediate radiation fibrovascular injury. Patients and Methods: In an open label drug trial, we studied the effects of pentoxifylline (400 mg orally tid for 8 weeks) on 30 patients who displayed late, radiation-induced fibrosis at 1 to 29 years posttreatment (40 to 84 Gy). The primary outcome measurement was change in physical impairments thought to be secondary to radiation, including active and passive range of motion (AROM and PROM), muscle strength, limb edema, and pain. Plasma levels of cytokines (tumor necrosis factor alpha and FGF2) also were measured. Twenty-seven patients completed baseline and 8-week assessments, and 24 patients completed baseline, 8-week, and 16-week assessments. Results: After 8 weeks of pentoxifylline intervention, 20 of 23 patients with impaired AROM and 19 of 22 with impaired PROM improved; 11 of 19 patients with muscle weakness showed improved motor strength; five of seven patients with edema had decreased limb girth; and nine of 20 patients had decreased pain. Pretreatment FGF2 levels dropped from an average of 44.9 pg/mL to 24.0 pg/mL after 8 weeks of treatment. Conclusion: Patients receiving pentoxifylline demonstrated improved AROM, PROM, and muscle strength and decreased limb edema and pain. Reversal of these delayed radiation effects was associated with a decrease in circulating FGF2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2207-2213
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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